Fragrance of Dreams
Francis Kurkdjian, the nose behind scores of best-selling scents for luxury fashion brands, shares how he created Nina Ricci’s latest perfume, an exotic potion designed to evoke feminine sensuality called L’extase
Didyoubecomeaperfumer bychanceorwasityour calling? After a short-lived career as a classical ballet dancer, I wanted to pursue haute couture to continue my family history—my maternal grandfather was a tailor and my paternal grandfather was a wedding dress designer.
However, I read an article that profiled various perfumers when I was 14 and it was a revelation. I discovered that there were real people behind the creation of perfumes and that it is a very special craft. I decided that this would be my career. I started to research perfume schools in France and abroad. I wrote to various luxury and fragrance companies to obtain more information about it. Finally, an executive at Lancôme answered my letter and told me about ISIPCA, the perfumer school in Versailles. I applied when I was 20, after obtaining a master’s degree in science, and I graduated in 1992.
Whatisyoursource inspiration? My inspiration is not driven by raw materials. I focus on a general feeling and then I try to envision the final image for the fragrance. I dream up my fragrance and only then do I start writing the formula.
How can you create something, when you don’t know what you want to say? A painter uses colour, a musician uses notes. As a perfumer, I use smell. For me, it all starts with the working name of the olfactory concept. For Nina Ricci, it was Muskissima. It sums up what I want to say with my perfume. It’s like the title of a book, or the name of a painting. It gives me a guideline, a creative path to follow. Howwouldyoudescribe thisfragrance?whatare theingredients? L’extase is an emotion, an evocation of feminine desire. I created the fragrance around two accords/blends that chase and echo one another. Barely Rose is built around a bouquet of white petals, highlighted by natural roses and pink peppercorns. Musky Shadow has notes of benzoin Siam, a type of benzoin resin, and Virginia cedar, subtly caught up in a breath of musk and amber.
Thisisyourfirsttime workingwithnina Ricci.whatwereyour impressionsofthebrand priortotheproject? Nina Ricci brings back memories of my childhood spent in Rue Jean Goujon, and the flowered dresses by Gerard Pipart, as well as the first ball gowns of the young debutantes.
Whatisthebestwayto applyfragrance? You should put on fragrance wherever you want or feels right, whether on your skin or on your clothing. I am completely against rules.